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Hogan starts to chase the house charge dodgers

MORE than half a million people who have not yet registered for the Household Charge will soon experience Environment Minister Phil Hogan's first post-deadline efforts to get them to pay up.

Letters are being sent to householders from local authorities all over the country reminding them of what the penalties for non-payment are.

More than 900,000 out of 1.6 million households have registered to pay the Household Charge so far, and Minister Hogan's first drive to pull in the controversial €100 from those who have not yet signed up will be in the form of the reminder letters.

But the minister has met stiff criticism from those who oppose the charge, who accuse him of bullying and intimidating people into paying it.

Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath told the Herald that Mr Hogan should "cop on and show a bit of sympathy and flexibility to homeowners".

"It's a terrible situation that Phil Hogan should have letters sent to people in crisis, especially a lot who have paid stamp duty on houses," Deputy McGrath added.

"Does he really understand the pressure on families, in particular the 120,000 homeowners that are experiencing huge difficulties in paying their mortgages?" he added.


Joan Collins of People Before Profit said Mr Hogan was using "bullyboy tactics" and that any attempts to force people to pay would be met with a campaign of resistance through "huge mobilisations, through organising people in their communities, and people will not be forced to pay this tax".

Meanwhile, the minister said he is very satisfied with the numbers that have paid the charge in the past week in particular, adding that many people who had expected it to be dropped or changed before the deadline of March 31 have now learned that it will not be.

Speaking at the launch of a waste water treatment system in Kilkenny, he said: "It's not going away, and one way or the other they are better off to pay sooner rather than later."

He also said that if the charge is not collected, services may be cut by the end of the year.

Fianna Fail's Environment Spokesman Niall Collins said the Government needs to recognise that they have engaged in a "communications disaster" in relation to the charge.

"They need to broaden the exemptions for those that cannot pay and extend the payment deadline for those that can pay."